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The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health team (L-R) Tammy MacLean, post-doctoral health system impact fellow; Emily Simmonds, researcher; Christine Monague, administrative assistant; Nadia McLaren, manager; Selena Mills, project manager and communications strategist; and Dr. Lisa Richardson, strategic lead in Indigenous health, Women’s College Hospital.SUPPLIED

Body, mind, spirit and heart. These four dimensions of personal well-being have long guided the traditional health care practices of many Indigenous peoples.

This wisdom, among other traditional practices and Indigenous ways of knowing, has now been embedded into the foundation of a transformative Indigenous health care initiative, the Centre for Wise Practices’ Virtual Hub, at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

With a $200,000 grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, the virtual hub supports the construction of a health care system that acknowledges and respects Indigenous identity, trauma and resilience while providing meaningful, culturally safe health care — where Indigenous worldviews are valued.

Currently under development, the new virtual hub is designed to support the on-the-ground experiences of Indigenous peoples working in health care settings. It will also provide non-Indigenous health care workers access to Indigenous ways of thinking about health and ceremony, an approach that has been overlooked in Western medicine.

“To me, the virtual hub is a celebration of our strength,” says Dr. Lisa Richardson, a Toronto-based physician of Anishinaabe descent, and strategic lead for the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

“We know our people are still having horrible experiences in the Western health care system. We know that the health gap still exists, and access to care that is high-quality, responsive and free of racism is really important,” says Dr. Richardson. “It’s also important that it be Indigenous-led, Indigenous-designed, [Indigenous-]values-based and [Indigenous-]developed.”

Building a small fire

With research suggesting that racism adversely affects the health of Indigenous patients in multiple ways, the creation of the virtual hub comes amid increased demand for the development and delivery of trauma-informed, culturally safe practices, spaces, activities and knowledge of a broader health care system.

In response, Dr. Richardson, who also serves as strategic advisor for Indigenous Health in the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto, began gathering and sharing relevant online resources, working alongside a dedicated team at Women’s College Hospital.

“We wanted to ‘build this small fire’ as our Elders would say, and then we started noticing more and more people were coming to us to understand what we were doing,” she says.

The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health has now compiled many digital resources, which health care professionals and others working to improve Indigenous care will be able to access through the virtual hub.

The Centre for Wise Practices’ site is currently hosted by Women’s College Hospital. But project lead Selena Mills says the grant from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation will enable these kinds of health-related cultural resources to be brought together in a newly built website, presented in a more interactive and engaging way, with even more content.

“We want to make sure the new virtual hub is really interconnected in a dynamic way that is engaging for multiple demographics,” says Mills, an artist and writer, and a descendant of the Woodland Cree peoples of Lac La Ronge, Treaty 6.

“I really believe in harnessing technology tools to uplift Indigenous brilliance.”

The virtual hub is one of many programs funded by TELUS Friendly Future Foundation. Every year, the foundation provides millions of dollars to more than 500 local charities across Canada, along with provincial and national organizations, that offer health or education programs, many enabled by technology. To learn more, visit friendlyfuture.com.

Click here for more information on the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health and to stay updated on the progress of the new virtual hub.


Advertising feature provided by TELUS. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.